New Orleans, Louisiana: Baltimore Ravens players flew into New Orleans on Monday for the Super Bowl, settling into a riverfront hotel three blocks from the San Francisco 49ers, their rivals in Sunday’s title game.
Thousands of fans from across the United States are expected to flock into the “Big Easy” as well this week ahead of the National Football League championship showdown at the Louisiana Superdome.
Eight years after the Superdome became a scene of horror as refugees fled to the damaged stadium from the flooding and devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the first Super Bowl there since the deadly storm will try to signal that the city famous for its Mardi Gras party is having fun again.
“It’s our biggest global moment,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “You have a city that’s going to be on the world stage dramatically changed.”
Parades and parties began last week for the Carnival in which Mardi Gras is the centrepiece, but for the players it will be business as usual while their supporters frolic in the French Quarter, near both team’s hotels.
“We’re not going to New Orleans for nothing else but to bring a [championship] ring back to Baltimore,” Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis told a crowd of supporters at a harbour-front pep rally in Baltimore on Monday before the team flight.
Lewis announced late in the season that he was retiring after the campaign and the man whose enthusiasm and energy has powered the Ravens for years could see his career conclude with a victory in the Super Bowl.
The 49ers made a point of not gawking like tourists when they departed their plane late Sunday, showing no signs that it was anything other than an ordinary road trip, although it could change their lives.
“We’re not down here to have a good time,” offensive tackle Joe Staley said. “We’re here to compete for a Lombardi Trophy.”
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, will challenge his brother, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, in the first Super Bowl match-up pitting brothers against each other as coaches and even they are all business.
“We want to come down here and it’s a business trip,” said 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. “It’s not necessarily to have fun. It’s to win a football game. We have to stay focused throughout the week and try to accomplish the goal we set in training camp.”
Jim Harbaugh was a fan at the 1990 Super Bowl in the Superdome when the 49ers routed Denver 55-10. It was the fourth of five Super Bowl triumphs by the 49ers, who have never lost in the Super Bowl.
“The organisation has a tremendous history and we’re proud of it,” Harbaugh said. “This is new business and our team is focused on winning a championship.”
The 49ers will train and practice at the New Orleans Saints facilities in the suburbs while the Ravens will work out at Tulane University in the city.